Total job openings returned to their highest level of the ever in the month of April, with businesses reporting that they were looking to fill 5.788 million positions. The separations rate (all quits, firings, retirements, etc) remains relatively stagnant, moving sideways month-over-month.
The openings rate, which adjusts for the changing size of the labor force over time, returned to an all-time high that it posted at the peak of the expansion in 2000 and July of 2015. The private openings rate had a similar performance, sitting at highs previously achieved in those same months.
If there was one clear negative reading on the JOLTS’ internals, it was the total quit rate, which hasn’t made a new high since December of 2015 when it hit 2.2%. That level was consistent with what we saw in the peak of the last expansion, while the 2% rate and sideways trend over the last few months is not. FOMC hawks will want to see this number move up. However, it’s worth observing that the private quit rate which does not include government workers was flat MoM at 2.3%. To be sure, that number isn’t as strong as previous expansions, but it does suggest that the stumble in the overall quit rate should prove temporary.
The really good news we saw in today’s report was the layoff and discharge rate. Employees losing their jobs returned to the lowest ever share, at 1.1% for all workers and 1.2% for private only. This combined with the return to all-time highs for the number of openings is indicative of much stronger labor market demand than the figures we’ve seen in recent nonfarm payrolls job creation figures.
Slightly less impressive in terms of internals were industry-level quits data (which declined) and layoffs data (very little to be worried about in terms of overall trend). The Northeast saw a spike in layoffs, but they’re still below recent highs. Other regions were solid. In terms of quits, the share of employees leaving low-prerequisite industries has been moving basically sideways for the last two years. Food Services is still broadly trending higher, but Retail and Transportation aren’t, while Construction is quite volatile. We need to see these kinds of industries see a spike in quits to gain confidence about the ongoing wage growth story.